Flying Emirates to or through Dubai? Here’s what you need to know

From the tests needed to the documents you'll have to show, here’s helpful information for flying to Dubai as a resident, tourist or transit passenger

Tourists can fly in and out of Dubai with no permission needed. Courtesy Emirates
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Dubai is open for travel. The emirate has been welcoming tourists since July.

Emirates Airlines has resumed flights to and from several cities around the world, and is now flying to more than 70 destinations worldwide, with Conakry and Dakar the latest additions to the network, and the Bangkok route restarting on September 1.

Things on Emirates flights look a little different now than they did pre-pandemic, so even if you’re a frequent flyer with the Dubai airline you may be wondering what to expect if you’re flying anytime soon.

From what documents you need before you travel to the service to expect on board, here’s everything you need to know before you take your next flight to Dubai.

Do I need permission to fly with Emirates?

If you are a Dubai resident, then you will need permission from the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) before you can fly into Dubai. You will not be able to book your Emirates flight without this permission, which can be requested here. The application will ask for your Resident File Number, which can be found on your visa.

Non-Dubai residents no longer need permission to return to the country and can book with Emirates to fly home via Dubai. Tourists can also book flights with Emirates with no additional permission needed before travelling.

What documents do I need to have before I fly?

All Emirates passengers will be given a complimentary hygiene kit before boarding flights. Transit passengers can request a new kit before boarding connecting flights. Courtesy Emirates

Dubai residents need their approval from the GDRFA as well as a valid UAE residency visa. Travellers with visas that have expired while they've been out of the country can return without penalties. All other UAE residents need the same documents that have always been required to fly in or out of Dubai – passport and residency visa.

Tourists must check what type of visa they need to travel to Dubai. The emirate is issuing visas on arrival and visit visas that should be applied for before flying, your nationality will dictate which one you need.

Travellers, including transit passengers, must complete a health declaration form that Emirates staff will request at check-in. Ideally you will fill this in and print it off before you fly, however forms should be available at most airports if you haven’t managed to do so.

Travellers should also download and install the Covid-19 DXB Smart App before flying and be ready to show negative coronavirus test results.

Will I need a coronavirus test?

A passenger is tested at the Covid-19 test center at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. For passengers coming from high-risk-countries a Covid-19 test is mandatory. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

Everyone arriving into Dubai needs to take a coronavirus test before they fly, this applies to tourists and residents of all emirates.

Travellers must show a negative Covid-19 PCR test certificate before being accepted on any Emirates flight. These tests results cannot be substituted for laser test results or any other type of test.

“Other test certificates including antibody tests and home testing kits are not accepted in Dubai," clarified Emirates.

Non-Dubai residents no longer need permission to return to the country and can book with Emirates to fly home via Dubai

Certificates must be for a swab test that is taken a maximum of 96 hours before the departure time of flights to Dubai, although this period may be less, depending on where you are travelling from so check the requirements before flying.

Children and passengers who have a moderate or severe disability are exempt from the test requirement.

Where can I be tested?

The UAE government has specified a list of approved clinics where passengers flying from some countries – including India, Pakistan and Bangladesh – must take their Covid-19 tests.

Travellers flying to Dubai from most other countries can choose to use a recommended laboratory from the same list or be tested at any “trusted and certified laboratories” in their country of origin. For travellers flying from the UK, NHS test results are being accepted on Emirates flights, however this could change in the future.

Can I show test results on my phone?

No, you cannot show an email or digital version of your test results. This differs from procedures in place inside the UAE for crossing into Abu Dhabi from other emirates where a digital report is accepted.

For boarding an Emirates flight, travellers must “bring an official, printed certificate – text message and digital certificates are not accepted,” says the airline.

What’s changed on the flight?

Expect all Emirates crew to be wearing PPE on flights, passengers must wear face masks for the duration of flights. Courtesy Emirates 

Travellers can expect a few changes on Emirates flights. All passengers will be given a complimentary hygiene kit containing a mask, gloves, hand sanitiser and antibacterial wipes.

You’ll need to wear the mask for the duration of your flight, except for when you are eating or drinking. Children under six years old and customers with certain medical conditions who have completed a preflight medical information form may be exempt from wearing masks.

Temperatures are likely to be taken before you board your flight and the boarding process has also changed, with passengers now boarding the aircraft in small groups, and with those seated at the back of the aircraft boarding first.

There is no more duty free service on flights and all reading materials – such as complimentary newspapers and magazines – have been removed. In Economy class, don’t expect menu cards – instead cabin crew wearing personal protective equipment will tell travellers what is being served. Food and snacks are also being served in sealed packages, so expect a slightly different meal than what you might have been given pre-pandemic.

If you're flying business or first class, you'll have to do without social areas such as the A380 lounge and there is currently no access to on-board shower spas.

Travellers with Dubai as a final destination will be given ‘quarantine undertaking’ forms during flights. These must be completed to hand to the authorities upon arrival at Dubai International Airport.

Travellers with Dubai as a final destination will be given ‘quarantine undertaking’ forms during their flight. Courtesy Emirates

The forms confirm that travellers will self quarantine until they receive any outstanding Covid-19 PCR test results, and will isolate for 14 days if results are positive. It’s also a good idea to keep your boarding pass in a safe place, you may be asked for it as you navigate through the airport in Dubai.

What should I expect at Dubai International Airport?

Emirates check-in counters at Dubai Airport. Courtesy Emirates 

Arriving passengers should hand their completed quarantine forms to Dubai Health Authority officials. All passengers will pass through thermal scanners where temperatures will be checked. Some travellers will have to undergo another PCR test when they land in Dubai. This is dependent on various factors, including symptoms and coronavirus case numbers in the country you’re travelling from. Travellers who do need to be tested will not need to pay for the process.

Passengers who take a PCR test on arrival must self isolate until they receive their results. “You may need to take another Covid-19 PCR test on arrival. If you take a test at the airport, you must remain in your residence or hotel until you receive the test result,” explains Emirates.

What happens if I have a connecting flight?

Transit passengers can also expect to pass through thermal scanners, and anyone showing signs of Covid-19 will be tested for the virus. Once cleared from the Medical Centre, passengers can continue to the departure gate.

If this causes travellers to miss a connecting flight, Emirates will rebook passengers on to the next flight and provide accommodation at Dubai International Airport Hotel if required. However, if test results come back positive for transit passengers, they will need to follow the advice of the Dubai Health Authority and quarantine in Dubai for 14 days.

All travellers are advised to check the latest requirements for their country of origin and their intended destination regularly before travelling because rules and restrictions can change with very little notice.